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How to Protect Pets and Wildlife This Bonfire Night


Bonfire Night is here again, a time that can pose a number of risks and a lot of stress to our wildlife and pets. Fireworks can be extremely stressful to domestic and wild animals. And bonfires can pose a risk to the creatures living in our gardens and open spaces. There are a few simple things we can do though, to minimise the impacts.

Building Bonfires

If you are having a bonfire this Guy Fawkes Night, it is vital that you do a number of things before lighting it to reduce the risk to wildlife. Hedgehogs are extremely vulnerable because piles of bonfire debris can be very enticing as a hibernation or sleeping site. To minimise the chance of harming one, only build your bonfire on the day you intend to light it. This means there is less time for a hedgehog to enter it. If you have to build one ahead of time, move it section by section to a new, open space before lighting. Check the bonfire as well by lifting sections with a spade or broom and shining a torch in before lighting to make sure nothing has crawled in. Light the bonfire at one corner rather than the centre. This gives anything inside a chance to escape. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has more information.

Hedgehogs like this one will be looking for hibernation spots at this time of year

On a side note, it is important to be aware that bonfires are strictly prohibited on construction sites. Lots of areas on sites can offer enticing spaces for hibernating hedgehogs, though. If there are any areas of collected vegetation or debris, you will need to check that no animals are using them. Empty pallets and pipes, as well as brush piles, are all potential hibernation spots. If you find one on site, carefully move it somewhere safe where it won’t be disturbed. You can also help hedgehogs and other animals by putting animal ramps in any ditches or excavations being left overnight. These ensure animals can get out of them again if they fall in. Lastly, remember that litter can be dangerous to wildlife such as hedgehogs. Cans, bottles and plastic can all ensnare animals so sites should be kept litter free. For more on how you can help on site, Hedgehog Street have a useful guide.

Log pile
Log piles provide refuge for lots of creatures

A bonfire on November 5th might seem like a good way of combining Guy Fawkes celebrations with clearing autumn’s garden debris. However, why not consider leaving the garden waste this year and not having a bonfire? Wildlife prefers messy gardens to tidy ones. Leaving dead logs and piles of leaves in your garden provides lots of refuge spots for all sorts of creatures. Some will be hibernating in them while others use them as temporary hiding spaces. A range of invertebrates including woodlice, worms and spiders, as well as larger animals like newts and toads use log piles. Leaf piles can offer safety for hibernating butterflies and other insects. By not having a bonfire, you reduce the risk to hibernating hedgehogs while also providing good winter homes for all sorts of creatures.

If you are having a bonfire, make sure you minimise the risk to wildlife

Minimising Firework Stress

There is a growing awareness that fireworks can distress many pets, wildlife and even some humans. Many people would like a ban on sales and some retailers like Sainsbury’s and the Co-Op have already stopped selling them. However, demand could well be higher this year as a number of local councils across the UK have cancelled public firework displays due to financial concerns. People are also increasingly using fireworks at Hallowe’en. This makes fireworks season last a good week or two, increasing the stress for many animals. Fireworks also pose a harmful litter risk if they are set off in parks and public spaces.

Domestic animals can find fireworks extremely stressful

There are a few ways we can reduce the stress to both wild and domestic animals though. Some larger events are going low noise this year in recognition of animal welfare concerns. Have a look to see if there are any near you. If you decide to have your own display, a number of retailers sell low noise or silent fireworks. These will reduce the impact on wildlife and pets in your neighbourhood. Some fireworks packs include a noise rating to help you choose quieter products. Whether you are having your own fireworks or not, always keep pets inside around fireworks night. The RSPCA has some brilliant advice on their website for owners of nervous animals. Some animals respond well to classical music and find it really calming. Classic FM usually has at least one dedicated Pet Classics show around Bonfire Night. Different animals have different needs though, so it is worth being prepared beforehand.

Keeping Animals Safe This November

However you spend this Guy Fawkes Night, it is important to be aware of its impact on the animals around us. Choosing not to have bonfires or fireworks is a great way of limiting the dangers to local pets and wildlife. If you are having your own events, however, follow these few simple steps to reduce the risks while still enjoying the night.